Joint Statement of the Revolutionary Socialist Vanguard (Nigeria), Revolutionary Socialist League (Kenya) and the African Bureau of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, 9th November 2020
1. A bloody and dangerous civil war has started in the north of Ethiopia. On 4th November Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered the army to attack the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) which controls the Tigray region in the north of the country. Since then, the region has been bombed by air force and dozens of people have died.
2. The background of the conflict is a power struggle between different ruling elites. Ethiopia – Africa’s second-largest country with a population of 110 million people – is a highly divers country with numerous ethnical and tribal groups and 90 individual languages spoken. The four largest groups are the Oromo (34.4%), the Amhara (27.0%), the Somali (6.2%) and the Tigrayans (6.1%). The country has been ruled by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) – a coalition of several parties – since 1991 when it overthrew the dictatorship of Mengistu. However, the EPRDF itself imposed an authoritarian capitalist regime which opened up the country for imperialist corporations. It has kept power by suppressing dissent and by a combination of creating alliances between some tribal elites, in one hand, and discriminating of other ethnical groups on the other hand. Furthermore, the EPRDF made Ethiopia a close ally of U.S. imperialism and has led the so-called African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), a pro-imperialist force which occupies Somalia since 2007 despite popular resistance.
3. Abiy took office in 2018 after three years of mass protests and unrest. This resulted in important changes with the ruling EPRDF regime. Until then, the coalition had been dominated by the TPLF. However, Abiy stems from the elite of the Oromo ethnical group. Since then, he purged many Tigray generals and officers as well as public functionaries and the TPLF left the government last year. This year, the regime delayed elections under the pretext of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the TPLF organized a local election in September which the Abiy regime called illegal. In response, Addis Ababa stopped sending federal funds to the regional leadership.
4. All this takes place in a historic period characterized by the worst depression of capitalist world economy (beginning in late 2019), an acceleration of the rivalry between the imperialist Great Powers (U.S., China, EU, Russia and Japan) and popular uprisings and domestic instability in various parts of the world. Against this backdrop, it is inevitable that domestic and regional conflicts in the South can quickly explode and result in ethnic civil wars, popular uprisings and wars between states.
5. The civil war in the north of Ethiopia is highly important for several reasons. Given the ethnical and national diversity of the country and the tribal conflicts as well as discrimination of various groups, the war could spark unrest in other parts of Ethiopia. Even an implosion of the state as such is not excluded. Furthermore, it could affect other countries in the region since the Tigray region is at the border to Eritrea – with which Ethiopia was at war in 1998-2000 resulting in about 100,000 dead – and Sudan. There exist also tensions between Addis Ababa and the Egyptian military dictatorship as Cairo fears that the newly built Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam could dramatically reduce Nile flows. (In October U.S. President Trump caused a diplomatic crisis when he publicly said that Egypt might “blow up that dam”.) Finally, the civil war could substantially weaken Ethiopia’s participation in AMISOM and result in the end of pro-imperialist occupation of Somalia.
6. The Revolutionary Socialist Vanguard (Nigeria), Revolutionary Socialist League (Kenya) and the African Bureau of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency characterize the civil war as reactionary on both sides. Hence, socialists must refuse to support any side. Clearly, the Abiy regime is an authoritarian capitalist dictatorship and a loyal servant of Great Powers. However, the TPLF represents a sector of the ruling class which has lost a power struggle after dominating politics in Addis Ababa for nearly three decades. The Tigray people do not represent a group which has been historically oppressed or discriminated. This is reflected e.g. in the fact that they are highly overrepresented in the higher echelons of the army. (The TPLF claims that the army’s Northern Command, which comprises more than half of the armed forces’ total personnel and mechanised divisions, joined its forces.)
7. Marxists are uncompromising defenders of the right of national self-determination. However, as the RCIT has elaborated repeatedly explained, this is a right which applies only to oppressed or discriminated nations or ethnical groups. This has not been the case in the conflict in the Tigray region.
8. Revolutionaries intransigently oppose all forms of tribalist policy. We fight for the unity of the workers and poor peasants across tribal and national lines. However, this does not mean that we consider the current borders of African states – which often have been drawn up by colonial powers – as sacrosanct. We support the largest possible unity of all national, ethnical and tribal groups within and across the current borders of Africa. At the same time, we insist that such a unity must take place – indeed, it is only sustainable – if it is based on voluntary agreement by all sides and if it includes full equality (e.g. cultural, language rights). Such a perspective can be only realized if the workers and poor peasants succeed in liberating the continent from the grip of imperialist powers, overthrow the capitalist class and open the road to a socialist future! In other words, self-determination and equality can only be achieved by creating the United Socialist States of Africa.
9. Revolutionaries in Ethiopia should defend democratic rights (like the right to assemble, to demonstrate, to organise, to strike, for freedom of press, etc.), oppose tribal chauvinism and work towards uniting workers and oppressed across the different ethical groups. Likewise, they have to call for the immediate end of Ethiopia’s participation in the AMISOM occupation of Somalia and for the withdrawal of all troops. Revolutionaries should fight against unemployment and poverty and call to establish a public employment program under the control of mass popular organizations, financed by the expropriation of the super-rich. They should also call for a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly. Such a perspective must be combined with preparing a popular uprising to bring down the Abiy regime. The goal should be a workers and poor peasant government which expropriates the imperialist corporations as well as the native bourgeoisie and which liberates the country form its dependency of Great Powers. In order to advocate such a program, socialist activists need to unite and build a revolutionary party.
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Revolutionary Socialist Vanguard (RCIT Section in Nigeria), https://revolutionarysocialistvanguard.wordpress.com
Revolutionary Socialist League (Sympathizing Section of the RCIT in Kenya), https://rslafrica.org/
Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Israel/Occupied Palestine, Yemen, Nigeria, Kenya, Russia, Britain, Germany and Austria), www.thecommunists.net
We refer readers also to the following documents:
Ethiopia: Down with the State of Emergency! For the overthrow of the reactionary capitalist EPRDF Dictatorship – puppet of the imperialist Great Powers! For a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly! For a Workers and Peasants Government! 20 February 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/ethiopia-down-with-the-state-of-emergency/
RCIT: Manifesto for the Revolutionary Liberation of Black Africa. Economic Freedom and Political Power for the Workers and Oppressed through Socialist Revolution! November 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/manifesto-for-the-revolutionary-liberation-of-black-africa/